Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Consciousness (and bonobos)

Why am I me and not someone else?  Or why am I the me now and not a younger or older me?  If subjective experience is an illusion, could I just as well be anyone else so much as I am myself?  Am I any different from anyone who at any time ever experienced the shared illusion of consciousness?  Is subjective experience of selfhood a sustained self-deception?

Due to the interconnected nature of physical reality we are all linked.  This is an evolutionary fact.  Vast domains of life on Earth are the progeny of a a single ancestral lifeform, and it may in fact be possible to trace all life back to a single organism.  The illusion, valid so far as it goes, is that we are separate.  Lines can be traced backward in time that connect us all together.  The same lines extend again forward in time.  The individuals that compose a species are extremely similar to one another.  The species of a family, such as Hominidae for example, are very much alike.  (Looking at the photo of a bonobo from a book by Frans de Waal, I see such striking similarities to humans.  For more on these animals, read Bonobo Handshake, by Vanessa Woods, or Our Inner Ape, by Frans De Waal.  PZ Myers weighs in.)

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